Monday, October 30, 2017

Sea Scare

Saturday night was Sea Scare at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. I've posted about this event in the past, but this year seemed bigger and better than ever! I was working the lantern table (crafting lanterns with the guests) so I didn't get to get around quite as much as I'd have liked, but I do have some photos to share:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Where Atheist Spirituality Fails

Some of you may know I've been going to a Unitarian Universalist Church.  I'm an Atheist.  I go because there are a lot of Atheists there, because we're a community that honors humanism, and we're inclined to social justice, ecological conservation, and real democracy.

Because the church draws on many traditions, there are often elements brought into the Sunday service that involve texts or concepts from various world religions.  That doesn't bother me so much.  There are lessons to be learned, even if we disagree on the source.

But it really galls me when spiritualism or religious "logic" is applied to atheist thought.

Which is what I got last Sunday.

Now we've all seen the religious right's argument that without god, there is no good.  That it is god who keeps us in line with this law and his will, with both the promise of reward in heaven or the threat of punishment in hell.  Atheists, they argue, have no reason to do good.  We can eat babies, pillage and rape with impunity. Of course we will all end up in hell... but our "ignorance" of that (even if it's "willful") is what deprives us of the motivation to do good.

Of course that's hogwash.

We know that altruism and cooperation are beneficial to the species, that our survival depends on our ability to work together, to help one and other out, and to share both our skills and our trials.  Newsweek recently published an article about a deformed, deaf Neanderthal who lived to the ripe old age of 40, something that would be impossible if the community didn't support him in a hunter-gatherer society. Even early hominids were more humane than some current humans.

Last Sunday I heard an offshoot of that concept by a Unitarian Universalist minister.  In a sermon about the need to embrace death and our mortality, he stated that if we didn't die, we wouldn't do good because we could always do it "later"... that we'd have time to help someone some other time.

Now there's a pretty obvious problem with that.  We can't tell the people of Puerto Rico we'll send clean drinking water in a year or two, or a girl in a burka that we'll stop the man from harassing her on the bus next time we see her,  or that we'll just hold the police accountable for the next time they shoot an unarmed Black man.  Social justice is time dependent.  It requires immediate response.  The situation brings it's own urgency, your sometime-in-the-future death doesn't.

If you're going to let injustice pass and wait to stand up another time, you're not against injustice, you're just wracking up points.  No one is counting points.  You're a social justice hobbyist, not a social justice warrior.

Now of course this isn't to say that everyone can or should fight every battle. You do what you can when you can.  But it should be a matter of acting on another's need, not your personal convenience.

It's not that atheists need mortality and the threat of ending to make them moral any more than the threat of heaven or hell.  It's not our death that requires us to altruism and compassion, it's our life.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bracing Myself for the Future

These days I've been rocking some new accessories as a result of my many medical visits over the last several weeks.

First off I've got that tough looking brace for my left thumb, the one that will likely be looking at surgery shortly, due to extreme deterioration due to basal joint arthritis.  I let it go pretty long before seeking treatment, one of the hold-overs from living somewhere where such diagnosis and treatment is expensive.  My cortisone shot didn't help much.

Friday I'll have a matching brace for my right hand, which is already bone-on-bone, but doesn't have the constant pain I experience in my right hand.

I'm also rocking some new glasses:  a sign of aging, I guess, that my distance vision has gotten much better, while my near vision worse.  I'd just bought new glasses (from Zenni Optical, shipped in from China) which is a whole OTHER blog about taking chances on spending money when a lot of what you do in life depends on your vision.  Those are in the dumpster... not only far from the prescription I have now, but NOT the prescription I sent to have filled.   Turns out Medi-Cal doesn't cover glasses anymore, so HUGE co-pay.

Happily, I'd paid off a lot of the dog's medical, so I could use the CareCredit card for my glasses (I was a bit skeptical when I heard "pet and human medical", but...   Of course, I have to pay it all off quickly or face the SUPER HIGH interest charges...

I'm also getting some new night-time accessories, a supper-sexy face mask, tubing and air pump.  I prefer not to think of it as a CPAP machine, but Jacques Cousteau cosplay.

I've had some good news:  The neurologist has decided my initial diagnosis of Ischemic Cerebral Small Vessel Disease is wrong... and that the white matter is probably just from previous migraines.  Much of the weirdness I experienced over the summer could be due to migraines, some from sleep problems (hence the CPAP) and we're still in the process of ruling out seizure activity.  Now that all sounds pretty scary when you put it all together, but I'm SO DARN RELIEVED that I'm not dealing with Cerebral Small Vessel Disease that I'm actually pretty happy with all the diagnosis, especially since it seems I'm not necessarily predetermined to develop dementia as I get older.

Right now my biggest fear is what the EEG will turn up, because having seizures would trigger a 6 month loss of my driver's license.  I've got a few more weeks before I need to deal with THAT.

All of this has pretty much put an end to some of the things I enjoy doing:  earning money and making pottery top that list.  I'm not sure how much work I'll be able to do going forward.  I do know my days of having my hands in clay are over, and I'll have to find something to do with the 50lbs of micaceous clay sitting in bags in the trunk of my car.

On the other hand, this has all made me take stock of my art, my time, and my possessions, and start streamlining my life.  One thing I've thought of doing for a while now is working on small boards (6"x6" or 5"x7") to make mini-paintings, possibly some plein air paintings.  I can still needle felt (but not wet felt), and I could still do collage work. 

I've worked all my art supplies into smaller containers, and have added some painting supplies and an easel I can use for smaller pieces to my Amazon Wish List.  I'm actually pretty OK with this, because even though I've given up on the idea of making a little extra money with art and craft work, I'm pretty happy finding a direction to work in that brings me joy and peace. 

Photography has also become an issue for me, since I can barely get my waterproof camera open to access the battery, charging port, and memory card.  The "push the tiny button down in the middle of the dial while turning the dial" thing doesn't work when you don't have full use of your hands.  I've added a new camera to my Amazon Wish List as well... one that isn't waterproof, and doesn't have to seal so tightly.  It also has some pretty nice features as far as zoom and macro is concerned, so whale watching and zoo photography will be a lot more fun for me!

So right now, all the health stuff feels kinda overwhelming, but it's actually not as bad as I thought it was at first, and it's forced me to get some clarity as far as what I want in the near future, what things (both in terms of possessions and in terms of the things I do and participate in) I value most, and how to adapt to continue to do them. It's also teaching me a lot about acceptance, which is something I'm NOT terribly good at. I've come to some peace knowing that I'm here in Long Beach until there's an opening in Petaluma.  I've got some peace with the idea that I can't do ceramics anymore.  I'm dealing with alternatives in case I won't be able to drive in the future.  And I'm downsizing the excess before the move, and to keep my tiny apartment as uncluttered as possible.   It's not all bad.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Descanso Gardens- Japanese Festival

Yesterday I went out to Descanso Gardens, almost an hour drive, for the Japanese Festival.  I was uncertain before I began the trip. Last year's festival looked wonderful, with taiko and dancers and crafts and speakers.  This year's festival looked a little less exciting, with just taiko and some crafts.

Unfortunately, all the hands on stuff was for kids only, something not noted on the website or schedule of events.

Adults did have SOME options-- at a price-- and nothing I was particularly interested in:

I walked around the garden a bit, but was very disappointed as I ran into so many blue cones where areas were closed.  In some cases, they were closed to prepare for the Enchanted Forest program (a holiday lights program) and in others, probably just because nothing was blooming.

At this point I was pretty much pissed off, and not terribly happy to have invested the time, gas, and ticket price.  As I was leaving, I came across docents at a welcome table, and, in one last ditch effort, asked if there were anything good to see at this time of year in the garden.

these two docents were solely responsible for my day turning around, and having a pretty good time at the garden.

I ended up having a great (and lengthy) talk with the docents, and setting off to see some of the other sights in the garden.  I decided to walk the whole area, all the way back into the mountain view and California native plants before going to the Boddy House and the art gallery (up on what they called "Cardiac Hill".)

Now Descanso Gardens is 85 acres of garden, so it's a lot less in size than El Rancho de las Golondrinas, although the winding paths are probably the same total distance, and I really haven't been walking that long, so about 3/4 the way up to mountain view I started feeling a little winded, but once I got up there, the walk was easy sailing.

On my way up I went through the rose garden, which was almost done blooming, and a lot more sparse than other rose gardens I'd seen locally, and frankly Exposition Park has a MUCH better rose garden.  There were a few things blooming before the rose garden (around the restrooms) and a few areas had potted mums so there were some blooming plants.

Along the path were plenty of rest spots, benches, and observation areas.

some blooms and pumpkins in front of the restrooms

a rosebud in the rose garden

the "Spanish Colonial Fountain" at the end of the rose garden

Mountain View Rest Area

I was rather disappointed in the "lakes"... small ponds with some mallard ducks and a single swan or goose (it was rather far away and in shadow, so hard to tell). The best part of the "lake" was the hawk circling overhead.

There was a rather pleasant surprise:

I rather enjoy things like this. 

On to the Boddy House and the art gallery...
The Boddy House seemed to be closed, the gallery open.

I'll just say that I was less than impressed, and leave it at that.

So, back to the main reason I chose this day to come to the gardens: the Japanese Festival.

I also visited the Japanese Garden, which was rather small, but nowhere near as tiny as South Coast Botanical's Japanese Garden.

I think the spot with the most potential for beauty at the right time of year (aside from perhaps the lilac garden) was this small lotus pond:

a dragonfly perched above the lotus

The area I liked most during the walk was the Ancient Forest.  I think, perhaps, if the grounds weren't so crowded I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more, because there is such a peaceful sense in that part of the garden.  I would have liked to sit in silence there for a while... I admired a woman meditating on a bench.  I know I wouldn't have been able to relax and stay focused with all the people walking by.

In summation:
Will I go back?  No, it simply isn't worth the drive for me.  I have the same kind of garden options (or better) locally, and at lower cost.  I'd been thinking of going to Enchanted Forrest, but after hearing about it, I'm pretty sure after Albuquerque's River of Lights I'd be less than impressed with Enchanted Forrest, especially since it's "stations" and a narrated tour. 
Do I recommend it?  If you're local, yes.  But it may be more worthwhile (if you're willing to pay the extra ticket price) to drive to Huntington Library Gardens instead.

Monday, October 9, 2017

One of Five

illustration: National Audubon Society
This afternoon, around dinner time, I was driving home along route 1 through the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. On the south end of Bolsa Bay, I saw it: a reddish egret.

This is my second spotting of the bird, having confirmed the previous sighting with a naturalist at the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, and learning that there were (at that time) only five of the birds in the entire wetland conservation area.

 It's become the thing I look for when driving through there, much the same as I used to look for dolphins when driving over the intracoastal waterways on the bridges to the barrier islands in Florida:  something that really makes my day, a surprising (but obviously looked for) pleasure.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

These Days

Cinnamon is ready for action today, and so am I.

This morning I ordered my Sonoma County Visitor's Guide, as well as my Petaluma Visitor's Guide.  I always pick up visitors guides, even when I live in a city, because they have a lot of information on events and things to do that can be easily overlooked by the residents.

This morning I also checked out whale watching trips in Northern California.  They're a LOT more expensive than down here, but are often day or half day trips, so I suppose the extra cost is worth it.

The "farewell tour" is back on... in a kind of modified way.  I'm not going to get too upset if I miss some stuff I want to see.  Mostly I'm looking for bargains when it comes to things to see and do here in LA County. 

My first trip will be next weekend, and I'll be going to Descanso Gardens for the Japanese Garden Festival. I can't believe I've been in LA a whole year and had so little taiko in my life.  I've already bought the ticket, so it's a done deal.

I'd missed the drum festival at Watts Towers, although it would have hit a couple things on my to-do list.  I'm feeling pretty run down these days, and I've been spending a LOT of time with the medical tests, so it's been hard to feel like doing much of anything. 

Being back in the action now (although for the next 10 days or so I still have a LOT of medical stuff to deal with) means that I want to do things to be more active... I worry that some of the lethargy I'm currently experiencing may be relieved with better fitness, so I've printed out an exercise schedule for the Lakewood Y.  It's a bit longer of a drive, but our local Y has practically nothing left, and it had very little to start with, so I don't hold out much hope of going there. 

Today, right now, however, I'm heading out to El Dorado Park with the dog, because even Cinnamon needs to be more active.  I imagine it's been rough on her while I'm trying to deal with all of this.  I'm not home as often, and when I am, I'm generally not feeling terribly interested in spending a couple hours at the dog park.  Today I'm going to push a little.

Tomorrow I meet with my hand surgeon, my ophthalmologist, and have to put in some time at school to make up for being out Thursday (after my procedure... I really didn't bounce back from the anesthesia as well this time) and then Tuesday I'll be spending some time getting things together with the Y before class.  Today is the day... at least if I want to allow Cinnamon some serious doggy socializing time (and I do!).

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Falling, but this time into place

I've been trying to find furniture that works for me, and get rid of the plastic stuff I got when I moved in.  At this point, I'm only buying stuff I can (a) move myself and (b) genuinely like.  It's been a dry spell for the last year when it comes to making my home comfortable, but then a number of things happened.  First, I went to work, which means I was able to pay for some things I needed, like car repairs... and second, I had a series of lucky finds when it comes to furniture.

First, it was finding the table I'd had in my wish list for the last few years online for less than half price (BOUGHT!) then finding the pottery barn chair with the bad slipcover (only $15!) and then the small round table for a couple bucks (also at a thrift store, on sale)

For the last few months I've been going back and forth on seating and beds.  I rather like my mattress that I have now, and since it's new, I didn't want to get rid of it. I considered the possibility of moving up to a full/queen bed after the move and putting my twin mattress on a daybed in the living room. Problem:  when my daughter and son-in-law came over, I'd be sleeping in the living room and they'd have my bedroom.  Wasn't thrilled with that. 

The frame I have now under my mattress, however, is problematic.  The legs are not at the edges of the frame, the idea being, I guess, that you won't stub your toe.  It also means two things (1) you can drop it into a standard frame if you take out the slats and (2) if you sit on the edge of the bed right now, it tips over.

I am less than thrilled with #2, although the remedy would be #1.

Plan B:  buy a futon for the living room, and a bed frame to hold my platform bed.

The problem then became financial and stylistic.  I didn't want to spend more than $100 on a futon frame.  I wanted the frame to match my current wood (oak) and I wanted the arms to be curved away from the body of the futon for comfort, and to have solid or slatted arms so that the pillows don't fall through.

That's quite a list, but it showed up on Craigslist this week at about half the price I was willing to pay.  I pick it up tomorrow.

For most people, I guess this is "whoopy-do, buying a used futon".  For me it's a trend of feeling that things are moving forward in making my life now more comfortable, while at the same time preparing for the move.  It just feels like things are really starting to fall into place.

Monday, October 2, 2017


I had to break into my sealed envelope for my security deposit yesterday.  Unfortunately the prescriptions I had to fill (I start prepping today for a medical test Wednesday) aren't fully covered by my Medicare, and Medi-Cal isn't paying the co-pays. I'll pay back into it tomorrow when I get my check. It's all just bad timing.

Yesterday I also got a letter about "changes to my coverage".  I must point out that said "letter" came in the form of an 85 page 8.5 x 11 inch book.  Of course, open enrollment is coming up, but it'd be hard to change coverage and doctors in the middle of everything.


Medical care wasn't this hard 30 years ago.  I didn't have to think much about it.  If I, or the kids, needed to see a doctor, we went.  My insurance covered most things, Medicaid covered the kids, and the rest was affordable, no matter how bad my insurance was at the time.  There were no waits for specialists.  I never had to decide whether or not it was more important to eat or see a doctor, and never had to juggle whether or not to go to the doctor, to urgent care, or to the ER in case of a serious accident or illness.

I've never understood having a system in place where the sick and elderly have less coverage and pay higher costs than the healthy, especially when the sick and elderly have been paying taxes and medicare during their times of health, and those now healthy will eventually also have to rely on those government programs to some degree.


Right now health and finances (and how the two are linked) are big issues for me as I continue to go through these medical tests, some routine, others not routine at all. 

It seems this summer's job has gone to pay (in part) for two things: The car repairs and the dog's medical care, both of which have not only eaten up the most part of my summer earnings, but have left me in additional debt. 

After Petaluma, when the car goes, it's gone. Walkability is one of the big selling points for me when it comes to the apartments in Petaluma.  Getting rid of the car would put another $120/ month or so back into my budget, at my current rate of gas usage and insurance cost.  And of course, no maintenance and repair expenses.

Hopefully Cinnamon will remain well enough that her medical costs will be minimal, but I'll have the Care Credit paid off by January, and will have that as backup.

Every move I make feels a little more scary.  I've never actually been to Petaluma, on the other hand, I'd never been to Albuquerque or Santa Fe, and used the same methods to decide on my move there as I have the Petaluma move, and I was pretty darn happy in New Mexico.